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Subject: Specific request. Challenge for the BGG experts! rss

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Ryan Strand
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Hello. I am planning on attending Gencon and am trying to decide what to buy. I have been on a very tight budget and not able to buy many games, so I have to make sure what I get is exactly what I want, because it will be my only game purchase until Christmas or later. I plan on getting Dominion:Intrigue, a couple of light girlfriend games, and one big new gamer game, which is what I am asking for help with. The difficult part of this request is that I don't have any games similar to what I am picturing in my head, so I don't have an easy comparison to make. Here we go.

The short version
I am looking for a medium to heavy strategy/tactics game that is NOT an engine based game.

The long version
I have only been deeply into board games for about a year, and in that time almost every big game I have played, whether from BGG recommendation or friend owning it, has been some sort of engine-based Euro. I liked the idea of these games at first, but have grown to dislike them over time. I don't like playing a 2-3 hour game but knowing I can't win after 30 minutes because my snowball is rolling down the hill too slowly. I don't like artificial catch-up mechanics that try to console you for being in last, or even worse, swing the game completely by giving an advantage that is too great. I don't want to catch up because of a long shot risk/reward system.

I want a game where if I fall behind, I can retake the lead not because the game assists me, but because I changed my strategy to adapt to the current game state.

Again, I don't have a good comparison here because I don't have any games like what I am looking for. But that's why I am here. BGG users know their stuff. I will attempt to give a few details of the imaginary game in my head. First of all, I am looking for a big box type game, nothing too small or light. I don't want anything that would be considered a typical Euro even if it doesn't have an engine as my friends and I have plenty of the popular Euros(although I am certainly willing to hear suggestions if you think I would like it anyway). Whenever I picture this game in my head, I always think of it as some sort of game with a big map and economics(non-engine, of course). I am not saying it has to be that, but I feel like that is where I need to be looking. I have played Acquire only once, but I feel like it is the closest of the games I have played.

So, here is my estimation, and I am hoping my guess is right and I will find this game easily. I have never played a Martin Wallace game, but whenever I browse them, I feel like they are the closest to what I am describing. Can I please get some Wallace fans to tell me if they fit? And if they do fit, which games are the ones that most closely resemble my specific demands? How high or low are factors like engine, runaway leader, catching up, skill:luck ratio, etc. Maybe I am completely wrong here, but I when I look at games like Age of Steam, Brass, or Struggle of Empires that they may be the closest.

A few random pieces of info
-optimal player range is 3-5. I play most often with 4.
-typical 2-3 hour length is a good mark
-nothing small, light, or abstract
-Wallace is not all I am interested in. Would love to hear about other games too. Maybe a big Fantasy Flight game is what I need. I am not interested in War simulation, but maybe a war game fits?
-I am fine with some random factor, but of course, not too high

I'll stop for now since I've gone on long enough. If you have a question, I will be checking the thread regularly. Browse my owned or played lists if you need to know more about what I play. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/collection/user/strandiam?own=1...

Thank you for your time!

P.S.- Feel free to recommend something even if it seems a bit off of what I describe. I am flexible on some of the details. Maybe my perfect game will end up being an Ameritrash combat game or a lighter game than I am imagining.
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David Brain
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I'd like to submit Confucius for your consideration. It has multiple strategic paths, a need to track what your opponents are doing, some very clever (and, at times, truly nasty!) mechanisms, a little bit of randomness and not an economic engine in sight. And not all the tactics are immediately apparent even after just one game.
(Unfortunately, I suspect you won't be able to find a copy at GenCon!)
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Andrew Nichols
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Container sounds about right (although I have yet to acquire it, it fits your description very nicely). 18xx comes close as well, if on the long side.
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Andrew Nichols
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Also Indonesia, if you don't mind paying premium prices for premium games.
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Ryan Strand
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Thanks a lot! I am reading up on these games gradually. Look forward to more!
 
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Miguel
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Give Duel of Ages a look. It fits most of your criteria, but being a combat oriented game with dice, there is a fair amount of luck.
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Jim Cote
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Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India

Engine: Low
Runaway leader: Low to medium
Catch up mechanism: None other than ganging up, which isn't very easy
Skill/luck ratio: No luck

Vinci

Engine: Low
Runaway leader: Medium
Catch up mechanism: None other than ganging up
Skill/luck ratio: Very low luck

Tigris & Euphrates

Engine: Very low
Runaway leader: Low to medium
Catch up mechanism: None other than ganging up
Skill/luck ratio: Only luck is tile draws

Struggle of Empires

Engine: Low
Runaway leader: Low to medium
Catch up mechanism: None other than ganging up
Skill/luck ratio: Medium to high skill, dice rolls and chit draws can favor one player

Santiago

Engine: None
Runaway leader: Low
Catch up mechanism: None
Skill/luck ratio: Only luck is tile draws
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Tanner Griffin
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I don't exactly know what you mean by "engine-based," but Power Grid seems to fit your descriptions quite well.

.2-6 players. Scales really well.
.2 hours.
.Highly strategic.
.Not Wallace, not war. Unique theme.
.Luck in the cards revealed, but more of a build-your-strategy-around-the-possibilities thing than luck.

And here's why I really like it.

It takes a whole bunch of different types of games and puts them into one. Not only do you have to auction, you have to manage resources and build an effective route. You have to know what the other people are going to buy and buy something else or try to rid the market of those. You can't just do the same strategy because the power plants available might be weaker or stronger than the last one. You have to adapt to where the other guys are building and both block them and build away from them. And I have seen people in last place after 30 minutes go to first place by the end.

I really didn't expect you hadn't tried it, but you need to at least give this game a shot. My 2nd favorite game, behind Dominion.
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Ryan Strand
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I have played Power Grid one time and based on first impression, I think I like it more than most of the popular Euros. Not quite what I was looking for with this request, but I have full intention of buying it in the future!
 
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A. B. West
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Imperial - It's a bit pricey, but certainly not an engine game and has the economics flavor you might be looking for.

Catan: Cities & Knights - You don't have Catan listed in your games (at it's a classic), but if you go that way, you might want to pick up this part as well. It adds strategy elements that might be what you're looking for.

El Grande - How about this classic? It has smart mechanics - isn't a Euro-engine at all. And you don't have an area-control game in your list.

La Città - This is my recent find that I really like. Again, very smart mechanics and is nothing like what you have. It's an oldie but a goodie!

Galactic Emperor - How about a game of galactic conquest? It has tactics and strategy, some Euro-style, but American theme and clashes. And if you e-mail me, I can get you a good deal
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Guy Riessen
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strandiam wrote:
I have played Power Grid one time and based on first impression, I think I like it more than most of the popular Euros. Not quite what I was looking for with this request, but I have full intention of buying it in the future!


There are few other games which have a more blatantly artificial catch-up mechanism than Powergrid. Blech. Seriously, in the "magical world of powergrid the most successful business person has to pay the most for resources...tralalalala." Truly, if you enjoy PG you should probably re-think your 'no catch-up mechanism requirement.

One of the faster 18xx games would fit the bill, like 1889: History of Shikoku Railways--it'll be 3 hours though, not 2. Harsh no catch-up...you can do it through cooperation with other players, or play for second, third, not "losingest."devil

Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga and Winds of Plunder are both strong contenders that fit your criteria. In Winds you can sometimes change focus if your path to victory is looking unlikely or already occupied, and still win.

City and Guilds and Goldbräu are also good in that time slot as non-engine games, with the nod going to City for being less random.

If you've got 5 players Oasis is great, with a very unique 'trading/bidding' system. It's a little longer than Santiago which is also good with 5, but only takes about 45 minutes. Neither is particularly good with fewer than 5--or I should say there are better choices.

Oh Pampas Railroads was just reprinted recently so you might be able to trade or buy a copy from someone--it's brilliant in the time slot you're looking at--it has a pretty harsh lack of catch-up mechanism. Your group should be fairly adept at controlling leaders through tacit cooperation.

Oh yeah Imperial is good too--as mentioned while I was typing this.
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Guy Riessen
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Martin Wallace games, and I'm a huge fan, in general, work thusly: you can fall a little behind and still catch up, although it will either depend on other non-leader players helping (either on purpose or not), or the leader making mistakes and you out playing them. Wallace games always have a dash of luck which can help or hinder. I would recommend almost any of his games to fit your criteria.

But!

I think, Liberté may be the absolute best Wallace game fit for you--why? Well I've not played another game which allows you to so radically change your position literally from last to first, requiring no luck, and using basically only your own skill and subtlety to get it done. Not through randomness, or wild swings of cardluck, but literally a last to first switch through pure, focused gameplay.

The 3 completely different victory conditions work exactly like that, and we've seen wins from all 3. Falling behind? Start working subtly toward the royalist or radical landslide victory, while making it seem like you're struggling to catch that darn VP leader. A VP leader sweats pins and needles contantly worrying about who might be trying to undermine his strong position with a sudden death victory. The tension built by the ever shortening rounds because so many control blocks are still out on the map is nothing short of brilliant...or maddening depending on your perspective.

I think it's at its sweetspot at 3 or 4 players, mostly because you cannot rely on player-chaos to mitigate mistakes. More players means tighter contention for areas, but much more changes every time it gets all the way back to your turn again.
 
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Ryan Strand
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Some of these games look like definite possibilities. Imperial, Confucius, Container, etc. I am still browsing reviews to get an idea of all the games that are new to me.

@adamw - I've played Catan many times, but never with expansions. I will definitely consider Cities&Knights when I do buy it, since I've heard lots of people talk highly about it.

@Sprydle - I agree with you about Power Grid's catch up mechanics, but somehow still liked it in spite of them. Maybe that will change after more plays. But yeah, I am trying to move in a different direction.

@ekted - Thanks for the summaries on your suggestions!

@everyone - Still haven't looked at half the games on this list so I've got lots of reading material. I am surprised nobody has agreed or disagreed with my Martin Wallace question. Either I'm way off mark about his games, or just coincidentally haven't caught the right readers yet.

edit- scratch that last sentence. Thanks Sprydle, you make Liberte sound pretty amazing.
 
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Jim Cote
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Sprydle wrote:
I think, Liberté may be the absolute best Wallace game fit for you--why? Well I've not played another game which allows you to so radically change your position literally from last to first, requiring no luck, and using basically only your own skill and subtlety to get it done. Not through randomness, or wild swings of cardluck, but literally a last to first switch through pure, focused gameplay.

I love Liberte. In fact I just played it last night. I was ahead in VPs in the final round, but another player managed to force a Radical Landslide for the win. I love that mechanism. However, there is SOME luck of the cards. It can be difficult to get cards for specific regions with specific colors. This doesn't detract from the game at all for me, but it does make your options somewhat dependent on the shuffle.
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Ryan Strand
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Random comments about some games I thought about while thinking about this topic.

Shogun - I have played this once and it was a year ago, so I don't remember it too well. But I recall it being somewhat like I am describing. I remember liking the game for a while, but then losing the game from a decent lead on the last turn because of luck and being pissed off(I think I had everything in order but the cards came up in the only order that could screw me and I ended up 1 food short).

Small World - I watched the BGWS video today, and while I know it is way lighter than I asked for, I think I may dig it. The thing that stood out in relation to this thread is the "catch up mechanism" it employs. It seems very interesting because it is not just a way for the losing players to keep playing, but also a strategy you could choose to use even if you aren't losing. At least that's the impression I got from the explanation.
 
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Seth Brown
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Yeah, though Vinci was suggested above, Small World seems to be a better/faster/stronger revamp. I also like Maharaja, also suggested above, although it still may be a bit Euro for your tastes.

Android might be an interesting one to consider if you're leaning away from Euros and towards Fantasy Flight. It's not a wargame, it is unique, it plays best with 3-5 players, plays for 3 hours or so (well, probably more with 5 players), and has some cool stuff going on. It may have a bit more luck than you like, but definitely check it out.
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Brass: Lancashire?

You can choose to try and build your income but that's certainly not mandatory to play well. There's network building, opportunism, several viable industry types, and more. Best with four, solid with three.

Automobile might be good. Works with three, seems best with 4-5. You do plan out your overall production capacity but simply being able to produce a lot of cars won't get you anywhere. No snowballs, that's for sure.

Tikal is an excellent 4-player game with no engines to speak of. Instead it's about timing majority control (which only matters at certain moments of the game), excavating temples, digging up treasures, and configuring the modular board to your advantage / opponent's disadvantage. You get 10 action points on your turn and a list of things you can spend them on. Good stuff.

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Paul / PHX Gamer
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I agree with the recommendations for:

Container
Brass: Lancashire - Wallace
Indonesia - Pricey but brilliant
Shogun

Please consider also these:

In the Year of the Dragon - Best with 4 or 5, risk mitigation. Not a lot of luck.

Age of Steam - Wallace. Can have a runaway leader in the final part of the game, but certainly not 30 mins into it.

Notre Dame - Enough luck to keep it interesting, scales great with 2 to 5. Much lighter than some of the other choices. No catch up mechanic.

Good hunting!

GTOGixxer


















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Jim Cote
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gtogixxer wrote:
In the Year of the Dragon - Best with 4 or 5, risk mitigation. Not a lot of luck.

Notre Dame - Enough luck to keep it interesting, scales great with 2 to 5. Much lighter than some of the other choices. No catch up mechanic.

These are both great games, but they have a significant engine mechanic.
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Alan
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I heartily recommend Brass: Lancashire. There's no real engine per se and there's no real catch up mechanism. It's mostly skill with a smidgen of luck (card draw) and a fair bit of player interaction (preemption, connections). Heck, I need to pick up a copy of Brass: Lancashire for myself at some point. Hmmm...

I'm not a fan of Container. Imagine the driest theme you can. Now make it drier. Plus, some of the dominant strategies involve establishing a good engine. The big difference is that you do not directly control the consumption side - you rely on other players to consume your goods. You control the prices of the goods, though.

Let's see, other suggestions based on games I've played...

Tribune: Primus Inter Pares is totally different. Worker placement. No engine at work. Random elements in card availability and initial draw. No catch up mechanism. Scales well from 3-5 players. A bit shorter than your goal, but that can also be an asset.

Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. Towards the longer, heavier end. A few routes to victory. Fair bit of randomness in card ordering and military draw, but it still works rather well. Might be longer than your goal, certainly with new players.

There's always The Princes of Florence. Excellent game. Part auction, part more.

Caylus Magna Carta is another option, as is Tinners' Trail.

(G'luck! )

EDIT: On second thought, Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization has an engine. Not sure why I was thinking otherwise -- possibly because the engine is more about gathering resources to accomplish further ends than simply a produce/consume cycle. I would still encourage you to at least take a look at it. An excellent game with great depth.
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Zoe M
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ekted wrote:


Tigris & Euphrates

Engine: Very low
Runaway leader: Low to medium
Catch up mechanism: None other than ganging up
Skill/luck ratio: Only luck is tile draws



Yes. This game is good for avoiding the runaway leader problem because points are hidden, and the board position changes drastically, and final score is based on the lowest of four sets of points (so even if someone seems to be doing really well, they may actually be suffering in one area). All this means that it's often difficult even to know who's in the lead. This, combined with the fact that it's possible to get a large number of points at once, means that I never feel like I'm out of the game.

strandiam wrote:


Small World - I watched the BGWS video today, and while I know it is way lighter than I asked for, I think I may dig it. The thing that stood out in relation to this thread is the "catch up mechanism" it employs. It seems very interesting because it is not just a way for the losing players to keep playing, but also a strategy you could choose to use even if you aren't losing. At least that's the impression I got from the explanation.



I haven't watched the video, and I don't actually know what catch-up mechanism you mean, but I think you should be careful with this game. I don't think it has nearly enough replayability to last you until Christmas. Everyone seems to love it now because it's fun and new, with the result that I've played it 12 times in the last week or two (and I don't even own the game!), and the novelty is already starting to wear off. I just don't think there's enough depth. I also find it frustrating that playing a multi-player game with one inexperienced player can result in a hopeless and almost immediate loss, when they completely unexpectedly attack you instead of doing what's best for themselves.
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Ryan Strand
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Dunyazad wrote:

I haven't watched the video, and I don't actually know what catch-up mechanism you mean, but I think you should be careful with this game. I don't think it has nearly enough replayability to last you until Christmas. Everyone seems to love it now because it's fun and new, with the result that I've played it 12 times in the last week or two (and I don't even own the game!), and the novelty is already starting to wear off. I just don't think there's enough depth. I also find it frustrating that playing a multi-player game with one inexperienced player can result in a hopeless and almost immediate loss, when they completely unexpectedly attack you instead of doing what's best for themselves.


Catch up mechanism was not the right term I should have used. I meant the part where if you don't like your position in the game, you can start with a fresh army, but keep your current points on the board to score for you while you start fresh. It seemed like an interesting way of doing it since most games that allow you to restart only allow you to do so after you get wiped out. Choosing to do it whenever and still scoring seemed interesting. Thanks for the warning though, I can understand what you are saying.
 
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strandiam wrote:
I meant the part where if you don't like your position in the game, you can start with a fresh army, but keep your current points on the board to score for you while you start fresh.


Thanks for clarifying. I'm not sure this really lets you start fresh as much as it seems--since your old position still earns points, it means that if you've really been destroyed and are down to, say, 2 regions with your former race, you'll be at a significant disadvantage compared to someone who managed to restart at the height of their power and continues gaining points for 6 or more regions every turn.
 
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strandiam wrote:
I am looking for a medium to heavy strategy/tactics game that is NOT an engine based game.

[...]

-optimal player range is 3-5. I play most often with 4.
-typical 2-3 hour length is a good mark [...]

This is a very difficult combination, as the long length you're interested in makes engine mechanics almost a given; there are very few mechanisms in a designer's arsenal which can carry a game through this amount of time and still remain interesting. While I can think of a number of games which would fit the bill if the time limit were relaxed (just look at my top-something---I'm not really into engines myself), I'm very much afraid that you must turn your attention to the utmost end of the Euro scale, and venture clear into the wargame-titles. But these unfortunately take longer than 2 to 3 hours.

The most obvious candidates in Euroland have already been mentioned, although they nearly all fall an hour short; some games mentioned break the 'no engine' requirement. If I break the time requirement too, then Reef Encounter might be something for you. With the time requirement, I don't recall seeing Die Macher yet. If you add another hour, and lots of experience, you could probably squeeze Revolution, the Dutch Revolt into that timeframe with 5 players (the best configuration), A number of games of the 18xx series would fit the bill---although they too have some sort of engine, it isn't an engine in the way you mean: it's far more about intelligent manoeuvring of stock markets than it is about utilising the positive feedback loop built into the game. In other words, the loop is providing the background, and is not the actual game. Regrettably, I know zilch of modern wargames to help you further along.

Finally, I concur that games like Liberté and Confucius might be interesting for you as well, although Confucius is on the shorter side of your time window.
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cymric wrote:

This is a very difficult combination, as the long length you're interested in makes engine mechanics almost a given; there are very few mechanisms in a designer's arsenal which can carry a game through this amount of time and still remain interesting. While I can think of a number of games which would fit the bill if the time limit were relaxed (just look at my top-something---I'm not really into engines myself), I'm very much afraid that you must turn your attention to the utmost end of the Euro scale, and venture clear into the wargame-titles. But these unfortunately take longer than 2 to 3 hours.

The most obvious candidates in Euroland have already been mentioned, although they nearly all fall an hour short; some games mentioned break the 'no engine' requirement. If I break that requirement too, then Reef Encounter might be something for you. With the time requirement, I don't recall seeing Die Macher yet. If you add another hour, and lots of experience, you could probably squeeze Revolution, the Dutch Revolt into that timeframe with 5 players (the best configuration), A number of games of the 18xx series would fit the bill---although they too have some sort of engine, it isn't an engine in the way you mean: it's far more about intelligent manoeuvring of stock markets than it is about utilising the positive feedback loop built into the game. In other words, the loop is providing the background, and is not the actual game.

I concur that games like Liberté and Confucius might be interesting for you as well, although Confucius is on the shorter side of your time window.


I can definitely be flexible on play time. My 2-3 hour mark was just to suggest that I didn't want a filler game or an all day war game. Your top 10 gives me some good information. I've played so many engine based Euros that I didn't realise a number of the ones I hadn't played yet were not. I've never even considered Reef Encounter. It was a game I always passed by because the fish artwork made me think light or kids game.

I think the reason I have generally passed by most of these games is that most of them give poor first impressions. At least, they do if you aren't already familiar with the style like me.
 
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